Antonio Mancini – Resting
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A portrait painter who worked primarily in Rome after 1883, Antonio Mancini developed an interest in the rich palettes and dark, tonal contrasts of Italian Baroque painting. Over the course of several trips to Paris, he also acquired a taste for contemporary stylistic developments, and met Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas during one such visit in 1875. Two years later, after being introduced to early Impressionist paintings by his Parisian dealer, Alphonse Goupil, Mancini revealed the depth of his interest in the French avant-garde by pursuing the group’s concern with the materiality of the canvas. Applying his oils with reckless and ecstatic abandon, he went so far as to incorporate bits of colored glass and foil into the surfaces he built up.
With its dramatic impasto, particularly in the bed sheets that surround the ruddy-cheeked, soporific young woman, Resting demonstrates the bold, almost sculptural quality of Mancini’s work from this period. The array of reflective decanters near the subject’s bed suggests that she is a convalescent, perhaps recovering from an illness, given her flushed complexion. Nevertheless, her sensuous appearance conveys as much erotic allure as it does innocent vulnerability. She looks wistfully off to the side, refusing to meet the viewer’s gaze, her barely parted lips and slightly tilted head contributing to her dreamy demeanor. The lyrical atmosphere of this intimateâ€”and intimately scaledâ€”image seems intensified by the curve of the model’s abundant, black hair flowing across the length of the large, white pillow behind her; the red roses she clutches in her hand; and the manner in which she coyly pulls down the sheet to reveal her breast and shoulder.
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Antonio Mancini (1852-1930) Italian painter.
Mancini was born in Rome and showed precocious ability as an artist. At the age of twelve, he was admitted to the Institute of Fine Arts in Naples, where he studied under Domenico Morelli (1823â€“1901), a painter of historical scenes who favored dramatic chiaroscuro and vigorous brushwork, and Filippo Palizzi (1818â€“1899), a landscape painter. Mancini developed quickly under their guidance, and in 1872, he exhibited two paintings at the Paris Salon.
Mancini worked at the forefront of Verismo movement, an indigenous Italian response to 19th-century Realist aesthetics. His usual subjects included children of the poor, juvenile circus performers, and musicians he observed in the streets of Naples. His portrait of a young acrobat in “Saltimbanco” (1877-78) exquisitely captures the fragility of the boy whose impoverished childhood is spent entertaining pedestrian crowds.
While in Paris in the 1870s, Mancini met Impressionists Edgar Degas and Ã‰douard Manet. He became friends with John Singer Sargent, who famously pronounced him to be the greatest living painter. His mature works show a brightened palette with a striking impasto technique on canvas and a bold command of pastels on paper.
In 1881, Mancini suffered a disabling mental illness. He settled in Rome in 1883 for twenty years, then moved to Frascati where he lived until 1918. During this period of Mancini’s life, he was often destitute and relied on the help of friends and art buyers to survive. After the First World War, his living situation stabilized and he achieved a new level of serenity in his work. Mancini died in Rome in 1930 and buried in the Basilica Santi Bonifacio e Alessio on the Aventine Hill.
His painting,The Poor Schoolboy, exhibited in the Salon of 1876, is in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Its realist subject matter and dark palette are typical of his early work. Paintings by Mancini also may be seen in major Italian museum collections, including Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Rome, and Museo Civico-Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Turin. The Philadelphia Art Museum holds fifteen oil paintings and three pastels by Mancini that were a gift of New York art dealer Vance N. Jordan.